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Soleil Grant

Dr. David Eisenbach

Contemporary Civilization

October 17, 2011

Anxiety is a very popular topic that is currently being discussed everywhere around the world from classrooms to newsrooms. Its sustained effects permeate in corporate board rooms, popular culture and society at-large. Its financial cost to society and thus, civilization in the 21st century is evidenced by a global explosion in the production of anti-anxiety drugs. Eli Lilly, one of the leading U.S. pharmaceutical makers of anti-anxiety drugs such as Prozac and Zoloft, reports that pharmaceutical disbursements of these drugs worldwide are approaching alarming proportions in industrial and emerging countries, alike. In popular culture, we have witnessed anxiety saturate the lives of famous icons. First Lady Betty Ford attests to this with her public pronouncement of battling anxiety and depression her whole life. Her legacy left behind the imminence of the Betty Ford Center in California frequented by Hollywood icons and luminaries as well as the gilded elite in American society.

Debates about anxiety's uses, origins and effects are held every day. The matter of anxiety is one that has been grappled with since ancient times and is prominently displayed by King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes of the Old Testament of the Christian Bible and the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. King Solomon writes that because life is fleeting, one should not waste time fidgeting with anxiety. He asserts that we should not worry about what is coming in the future because fortune leaves room for any possibility to occur. One could die at any moment. One could be granted with one million dollars and be stunned. One could even have their livelihood randomly destroyed. There is no telling what the future holds. To worry is a futile practice.

Epicurus shares a similar idea. He maintains that we should not waste our time worrying about that which is uncertain because it blocks a person from attaining peace. They both agree that anxiety is useless and a waste of time. I find King Solomon and Epicurus' ideas to be problematic, at times. Anxiety can be good because it can cause one who is pre-occupied with worry to develop and maneuver toward personal growth which leads a person toward a more productive life.

It is understood that deeming anxiety to be a good thing catapults one into complete contradiction with Epicurus and Ecclesiastes. Epicurus believes anxiety prevents one from reaching a fulfilled state of happiness and King Solomon believes that it prevents an ultimate goal of peace. However, always being happy and peaceful can be a stagnant place of complacency and can prevent personal growth and accomplishment, something of utmost importance for humans.

Anxiety can be an asset because it compels the worrier to strive to push further and to improve. It can be a change agent in that it allows deep reflection that can lead to strength and perseverance from within. It is better to be anxious and attain personal growth in relationship to others than to be complacent and simply satisfied with one's state of being.

King Solomon would argue that worrying about working toward a goal is useless because in the end we are just going to die and there "will be no remembrance" of past accomplishments (Solomon, 587). But, it does not matter if what we did or not is remembered, it is the fact that we did it or tried. However, King Solomon wants to put us at peace and quiet our minds. He argues that the worrying and anxiety that come with trying is agonizing and should not be dealt with. He suggests we only concern ourselves with our "food, drink, and toil" so that we may live in contentment now in the present without anxiety about the future (Solomon, 589). Yet, committing only to our food, drink and toil leaves us in an unfulfilled state. There is always more to learn, more to experience, and more to improve upon. It would be better to channel one's anxiety into other endeavors that provide useful results that aim toward personal growth.

It is better to spend one's time striving for something than to be complacent with our "food, drink and toil" even if that means being anxious. Anxiety helps us to grow. The worrying that comes from goal setting and planning can be channeled into other productive activities such as reading, art, dance, exercise, and study. I beg to differ with King Solomon on his claim that such activities are not merely, "striving after wind." Participating in a wide range of activities make us well rounded and accomplished persons (Solomon, 587).

This can be juxtaposed to modern mainstream pop culture. Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computer, who recently died, delivered a commencement address to a Stanford University graduating class on his personal experience with adversity and the anxieties that were attached. He shared with them some personal defeats and challenges that left him in a stationary place of devastation at first. But, he ended up channeling his energy into other outlets, which resulted in the creation of new, useful innovations. First, he was overwhelmed with frustration and worry after dropping out of Reed College.



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